South Australian country singer Beccy Cole still gets positive feedback from her 2012 coming out episode of ABC’s Australian Story.
“I think the level of acceptance has been such that I just felt like I was given a great big regional hug!” she told QNews.
At the time, Beccy said she wanted to set a positive example to her then-13-year-old son Ricky.
“I think I might’ve struck a chord with some people in our community in our regional areas who perhaps hadn’t had somebody put up their hand, or feel like they have a community,” Beccy said.
“I’ve said this many times but being gay doesn’t just choose people that live in the cities. Someone who grows up in a small town or a station in the outback might not feel they have anyone to talk to.
“The bulk of my audience is in regional Australia where I’ve been travelling for 20 odd years. When one of their favourite singers puts their hand up and says ‘I’m gay,’ and explains what that means, I think it may have made it easier for some.”
Three years after that glimpse into the nine-time Golden Guitar winner’s life, she’s releasing her memoir, titled Poster Girl, and an accompanying album Sweet Rebecca.
To write the book, Beccy locked herself away in a shack on a South Australian beach with diaries, photographs and her own memories.
“I’m absolutely glad I did it. It was harrowing at times because I’m pretty honest in it,” she said.
“I think if you’re only going to write all the fluffy stuff then people won’t be interested. You’ve got to say everything that has happened with honesty and not leave any of the juicy bits out.”
The accompanying album, Beccy’s tenth, wasn’t initially planned but came together easily “after writing 85,000 words that didn’t rhyme,” she laughs.
Knowing what she knows now, what would Beccy say to Sweet Rebecca, her younger self?
“I was looking for photographs for the book, and I found this one of me when I was this tiny kid who just looked so sweet! I just wanted to warn her!” Beccy laughs.
“I think we could probably all have a few words with our child selves. After looking back at my life to write the book I realised that you can’t change anything nor would I want to, if I went back.”
Last year Beccy guested on John Williamson’s equal love anthem “It’s All About Love” from the veteran vocalist’s album Honest People. The track got them a finalist spot in the Country Music Awards of Australia’s Vocal Collaboration of the Year category.
“I was so proud. I’ve always been such a big fan of John. For him to recognise that as an issue and for someone like him to shine a light on it in that way was just really lovely. Obviously it’s a matter that meant a lot to me,” Beccy said.
“I have a partner and we’re on the road together and there’s a big part of me in that song lyrically as well.”
While much of her new Sweet Rebecca album is autobiographical, lead single “Broken Soldiers” tackles a different issue close to Beccy’s heart: the experiences of returning soldiers with PTSD and the injuries they have that can’t be seen.
“I went to the memorial of a soldier who took his own life. I was asked to go and sing ‘Poster Girl’ because it was a song that he really loved,” Beccy said.
“When his mother got up and spoke, I was blown away by her strength but also her pride, the way she spoke about him and the way she knew that he didn’t come back the way that he left.
“I was just so moved by the whole thing and ‘Broken Soldiers’ was inspired by his story. I really want to shine a light on this issue.”
Beccy has only just wrapped up a string of inland shows with Melinda Schneider, performing their 2014 covers album Great Women of Country, but Beccy said she can’t wait to tour her new material.
“We’ll be hitting the road with Sweet Rebecca and the book for pretty much the rest of this year. I haven’t stopped!” she said.
“People say, ‘How long’s this tour been?’ and I say ‘20 years!’ I do love it and I always have. It’s what I was born to do.”
Sweet Rebecca and Beccy’s memoir Poster Girl are both available now.